- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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May 2

Opelika-Auburn News on the ongoing ethics case against former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard:

Former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn - once among the most powerful leaders in the state - still waits on appeal two years after his conviction on ethics charges to hear if he must serve any of his sentenced time in prison.



Likewise, so does the Lee County jury that sentenced him, the judge who presided over the case, the attorneys from both sides, and most of all: the people of Alabama.

Much to the dismay of and disservice to all, it has become evident that politics is influencing the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals and its lack of action to help resolve this case, and that is wrong.

A case that from the beginning was touted as a course correction to ethical standards gone awry sadly remains mired in the very political mud that first stained it.

If the judges sitting on this bench cannot perform their duty without regard to political maneuvering and instead fulfill their role in serving justice, no matter their verdict, then they should be replaced.

It’s been so long, perhaps some readers have forgotten the background:

A Lee County jury in June 2016 found Hubbard guilty of 12 out of 23 ethics charges he faced. The following month, he was sentenced to four years in prison. The charges stemmed from accusations that he sought to use his position in the political realm to benefit businesses in which he personally was invested.

Hubbard, obviously, adamantly denied the charges and feels the accusations are rooted in politics.

That was June 2016, almost two years ago.

On May 24, 2017, Hubbard filed an appeal claiming the state misinterpreted ethics laws. The state filed a scathing response July 3; Hubbard’s team a rebuttal in August 2017.

Now here it is, May 2018, and there remains no conclusion to the legal proceedings in this case, despite the Court of Appeals having resolved other cases in much shorter time, including murder cases. The court remains strangely silent in rendering a decision on Hubbard.

Or is it so strange, given politics in Alabama?

Pandering to the electorate with a no-decision, no-harm delay until after election dates is the best explanation political observers give for the delay, and the charge seems to hold merit.

Perhaps members of the bench privately have no interest in influencing elections, one way or another, realizing that Hubbard has friends and foes alike. That assumption, true or not, has made the bench become an easy next target for the critics of Alabama’s leadership, and with this case, it’s easy to see why.

Critics, by the way, of whom should include every Alabama voter.

Regardless of the reason for no resolution to this case two years later - by either upholding a jury’s conviction or finding reason to toss it - the court’s delayed decision deserves the criticism being levied on the judges now.

Holding the defendant, prosecution and electorate at bay by holding a ruling hostage until after the next scheduled primary elections, as many pundits have charged, would in itself be an injustice by the court.

Any other reason for the delay poses questions of the court’s competent ability to make a decision, something each judge was elected to do.

One way or another, it is past time for justice to be served in this case. Alabama needs it to turn the page on an ugly chapter of its history written in ink still wet.

Lady Justice does not run for office.

Appellate judges, however, do.

Online: http://www.oanow.com

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May 5

Dothan Eagle says state lawmakers must derail the jail food gravy train:

Last year, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin’s tax forms from 2015 and 2016 showed he had made a profit from the kitchen of the county jail, which houses roughly 900 inmates. One might praise the sheriff for his stewardship, if the savings benefited the taxpayers of Etowah County.

But that’s not the case. Because of a 1939 Alabama law that allows sheriffs to keep unspent jail food funds, Entrekin pocketed $672,392 during that two-year period.

Every Alabamian should be outraged - but not with this particular sheriff. They should direct their complaints to the Alabama Legislature, which has been aware of this strange circumstance that allows some sheriffs to haul in tens of thousands of dollars a year from funds meant to feed inmates.

In 2009, a Morgan County sheriff was accused of feeding inmates on the cheap because he could pocket the excess funds.

Following that debacle, lawmakers attempted to change the law, but that effort failed. It’s interesting to note that the Etowah County sheriff’s fortune was made years after lawmakers’ feeble attempt to change the law.

The notion is obscene, creating a situation in which the nutrition of inmates could be sacrificed in order to build surplus funding that a county sheriff could convert to personal use. Jail food budgets vary widely across the state, depending on federal and local funds available. Considering that the state’s contribution to feed inmates is $1.75 per prisoner per day, the situation on jail food trays could be far from ideal. In the Morgan County instance, evidence showed the sheriff at the time went in with another sheriff to purchase a truckload of corndogs for $1,000 and fed them to prisoners for weeks.

Lawmakers should look toward Houston County to find a better way. Jail food service is contracted by the county commission, and Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza said he never sees the funding related to prisoner food.

Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com

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May 6

Decatur Daily on a recently published book by Zora Neale Hurston titled “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ “:

Every so often, it’s nice to have a reminder of the state’s rich literary tradition. It’s harder for those dang Yankees to joke that we in Alabama don’t read books when the state has birthed its share of men and women of letters.

Harper Lee springs to mind, with her “To Kill a Mockingbird” being required reading in schools nationwide. Then there is the humorist Fanny Flagg of “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” fame. And not to be overlooked is Hartselle’s own reporter/novelist William Bradford Huie, whose “The Americanization of Emily” was turned into a movie of the same name starring Julie Andrews and James Garner. (His potboiler “The Klansman” was also turned into a movie, starring Lee Marvin and Richard Burton, of somewhat lesser acclaim.)

Less-often mentioned, however, is Zora Neale Hurston. In one sense, that’s only natural. Hurston’s family moved to Eatonville in central Florida when she was 3. That’s where she grew up, and it’s the town she always regarded as her hometown.

Nevertheless, it is a matter of record that Hurston was born in Notasulga, located southwest of Auburn and northeast of Tuskegee, and straddling the border of Macon and Lee counties. And Hurston returned to Alabama in 1928 in search of a story that only now is being told.

On Tuesday, HarperCollins will publish Hurston’s “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo,’ ” as told to her by Cudjo Lewis, the last surviving former slave from the last slave ship to come to America, the Clotilde, which did so in 1859, despite Congress having outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in 1807.

The Clotilde was back in the news earlier this year, when its wreck was thought to have been discovered in the river delta north of Mobile, but that wreck turned out to be a different ship.

To many, the Clotilde is forgotten history, as is Africatown, the community near Mobile founded by Lewis and some of the other West Africans brought to America on that last slave ship.

When Hurston returned to Alabama, she headed to Africatown to interview the last living link to America’s original sin.

“But,” as The Washington Post reports, “the book she would write in 1931 about the life of Lewis, much of it in his own words, was never published. For at least two publishing houses, Lewis’s heavily accented dialect was seen as too difficult to read.”

Hurston died in 1960, and only now has the Zora Neale Hurston Trust found a publisher.

Hurston herself lingered in obscurity after her death, until novelist Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”) made it her mission to bring Hurston back to the forefront of American letters.

“I wanted people to pay attention. I realized that unless I came out with everything I had supporting her, there was every chance she would slip back into obscurity,” Walker told PBS in 2014, according to the Post. “I loved the way Zora showed a delight in the beauty and spirit of black people. She loved her own culture, especially the language.”

Now, in some schools, Hurston’s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is every bit as much required reading as “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Barracoon” may one day join those volumes on school reading lists. It is an important story, and Hurston is an important and complicated writer, if one the literary establishment is at pains to classify. Auburn University philosophy professor Roderick T. Long says Hurston belongs among the Old Right, a largely intellectual movement of an idiosyncratically conservative bent that had its heyday before World War II and included the critic and journalist H.L. Mencken and Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder (“Little House on the Prairie”).

Hurston may not have spent much of her youth in Alabama, but she has told one of its most important stories, and she is part of a literary heritage that springs from Alabama soil, one that is worth discovering or, as the case may be, rediscovering, and celebrating.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com/

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